EU withdraws from vaccine war
THE EU has withdrawn from the vaccine war after Boris Johnson slammed a “grave” bid to block vaccines
on the Irish border. Brussels was met with fury by UK leaders for the “incredible act of hostility”.
The action was aimed at ensuring vaccines don’t enter the UK from the province after the bloc slapped
vaccine ban rules on jabs entering Britain.
But it led to widespread anger in Northern Ireland and among Tory MPs with ex-Brexit minister
David Jones comparing the EU to the “Mafia”.
“The Prime Minister spoke to EU Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen this evening,”
said a spokesman. “He expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the
EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have.”
EU leaders later performed a major climbdown and say they will now no longer go ahead with
the controls. In a statement, the European Commission said: “To tackle the current lack of transparency
of vaccine exports outside the EU, the Commission is putting in place a measure requiring that such
exports are subject to an authorization by the Member States.
“In the process of finalization of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland
Protocol is unaffected. The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause.
“Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the
effects of the authorization system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.
“In the process of finalizing the document, the commission will also be fine-tuning the decision-making
process under the implementing regulation.”
The backdown came after frantic phone calls between the Irish premier Michael Martin and von der Leyen, the paper reports.
In an extraordinary development, Brussels handed itself sweeping new powers to stop companies sending
millions of vaccines across the channel.
The move could allow it to block life-saving jabs getting to the UK, including 3.5 million from a Pfizer
BioNTech in Belgium.
Brussels fired the first shot in its vaccine war on the UK after sensationally claiming Britain is
“hijacking” doses. But the bloc also tried to slam the back door shut on medicines entering Northern Ireland
using powers under Article 16 of the Brexit deal.
The article allows the EU to override the treaty and was devised as a last resort to alleviate serious disruption
to trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
The move led to fury in the province with First Minister Arlene Foster branding it an “incredible act
of hostility” and accusing Brussels of playing politics with people’s lives.
“The European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their
interests but in the most despicable manner – over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to
save lives,” she said.”At the first opportunity, the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland
and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.”
She said the EU had used Article 16 of the Brexit deal in an “aggressive and most shameful way” and “
it is now time for our Government to step up”.
The Republic of Ireland’s Premier Micheal Martin has spoken to the European Commission’s
president Ursula von der Leyen to “express concerns” about the plan.
As tensions boiled over chief eurocrat von der Leyen accused AstraZeneca of misrepresenting its
contract with the bloc and ordered the firm to find up to an extra 50 million doses for the continent
from Britain. Under the EU vaccine plan, customs authorities in bloc countries will have to notify
the Commission every time jabs are being sent to the UK – allowing them to keep an eye on
our supplies. The new rule, which comes into force on Saturday and lasts until March,
means vaccine makers will have to disclose all shipments they’ve made abroad in the last three
months to try to catch out those heading to the UK.
Eurocrats have tried to play down the likelihood of millions of Pfizer doses being stopped from
reaching Britain, insisting the system is designed to monitor exports and they will only intervene
in “rare cases”.EU health chief Stella Kyriakides insisted: “We’re not protecting ourselves against
any specific country, and we’re not in competition or a race against any specific country.”
But one well-placed EU source told The Sun: “It’s not a monitoring system, it’s a locking mechanism.”